Monday, February 7, 2011


For those not in the know (this group, much to my dismay, includes pretty much everybody), Holzmaden is important. Rather than being an unheard of village over an hour and 6 transit zones southeast of Stuttgart Mitte using public transportation, it could in fact be regarded as the mother ship for geeks such as myself. Holzmaden plays a disproportionate role in what we know of marine paleobiology in the Lower Jurassic, and even the Mesozoic. For instance, evidence that ichthyosaurs had dorsal fins, like dolphins, is comes only from Jurassic rocks in southwest Germany, mostly from quarries in Holzmaden.
Ichthyosaur - Urweltmuseum Hauff Gallery, Holzmaden Germany

Historically, the major industry in Holzmaden was quarrying. The local shale was used for building, finishing (e.g. counter tops and flooring), and for the manufature of cement and gravel. The rock layer used is also highly fossiliferous. Over the past 200 years, thousands of fossils have been extracted and prepared, and sold, exchanged and gifted to museums and private individuals all over the world. Aside from my personal favourite of ichthyosaurs, other wonders include plesiosaurs, marine crocodiles, fishes, ammonites, belemnites with preserved soft tissue and, most famous of all, gallery-sized slabs of crinoids. The number of quarries has sadly dropped precipitously, which is unfortunate in some ways. Holzmaden boasts two paleontology museums, conveniently located right across the street from each other. Not bad for a village of 2000 people. Also included: scenic views of the Schwäbische Alb. Not included: much in the way of dining options. For a visit, take Stuttgart S1 Kirchheim to the terminus, then a bus. I know people other than me secretly get thrills out of riding S-Bahn trains to the termini. All the more reason to go to a town few have ever heard of. Your friends will be totally jealous.

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